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Feb 29, 2016

BTV’s Expedition to Gracias A Dios Thwarted by Guatemalan Navy!!

The first anniversary of an expedition in 2015 which ended in confrontation between the Guatemalan Navy and the Belize Territorial Volunteers to the Sarstoon Island was commemorated over the weekend. The B.T.V. lead by activist Wil Maheia organized a trip on Saturday to mark the occasion. As it did in the first trip in 2015, the Guatemalan navy enter Belizean territorial waters.The B.T.V. was not allowed to advance to Gracias A Dios as planned because they were blocked by the Guatemalan military. That aside the Guatemalan Foreign Minister asserts that the Sarstoon belongs to Guatemala in its entirety. We start our detailed coverage tonight with Saturday’s expedition.

 

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) launched an expedition on Saturday to commemorate the one year anniversary of the illegal detention of thirty-seven Belizeans who went to visit the Gracias Adios Monument on the Sarstoon River on February twenty-eighth, 2015. The 2016 expedition was led by one of the BTV leaders Wil Maheia, who pointed out along the journey, the illegal fishing camps along Belize’s coast that were built by Guatemalan fishermen.

 

Wil Maheia, Head, Belize Territorial Volunteers

Wil Maheia

“The main purpose is to remember that Guatemalans came into Belizean territory and detained Belizeans and held them hostage.  We also wanted to make this trip to continue to highlight the illegal fishing that takes place in this area.”

 

With proud Belizeans flags flying in the wind, it seemed the start of a good day for the two boats to reach the monument. Upon reaching close to the southernmost border, we spotted a Guatemalan gunboat moored nearby in that country’s waters. The Guatemalan military had three additional military vessels and a Columbian skiff forming a blockade to the entrance to the Sarstoon River. The Coastguard’s Forward Operating Base on Sarstoon Island could be clearly seen behind one of the Guatemalan vessels in Belize’s Territorial waters. This was not a day that the BTV would reach Gracias A Dios.

 

Wil Maheia

“As you can see 5 Guatemalan military boats.  They don’t have one or two people on it. Some of them have 10 to 15 people. You could see the amount of Guatemalan military. So it’s very intimidating. We were pushing our boats towards our military outpost or camp. The minute we try get into it they block us clearly inside Belize waters. As Belizeans we can’t access our own military base without checking in with the Guatemalans. And i find it very disappointing that this is existing today.  I don’t know what we as a people or Government will do about it. Clearly that’s a violation of not only Belizean regulations but international law as well. Are you willing to push forward to see if they will stop you or allow you in Belize waters? Well you know the captains don’t feel like getting confrontational. I don’t mind pushing forward I have to respect what the captain say too.”

 

Prior to the excursion the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out a press release saying it QUOTE “it is imprudent and potentially dangerous for the organizers of excursions of this type to expose innocent Belizeans to the risk of inadvertently coming into conflict with Guatemalans be they civilians or officials.”UNQUOTE

 

Wil Maheia

“The government was telling us there would be Guatemalan presence. They are talking to the Guatemalan military i don’t think they should let the Guatemalan military bully us. right now we can’t even go to our military base.”

Jose Sanchez

“Do you believe the international Court of Justice is a solution or is there an alternative that you see?”

 

Wil Maheia

“I don’t think the ICJ is a solution to this. If we go to ICJ and they rule in our favor then Tthe next Guatemalan government won’t’ respect that ruling. We’ve seen how many countries have listened to the results if it is not in their favor. I believe we can continue to build trade relations. No one has offered alternatives to the ICJ, do you have another solution? Well yes, the people of  Punta Gorda, the people of Jalacte, San Vicente, we have to build on that  they go back and forth. It won’t end the claim but eventually help relations. But that won’t end the claim.”

 

And though the ministry’s press release indicated Belize’s Security Forces have always maintained a presence in the area to deter, detect and interdict illegal activities in Belizean territory, there was none to deter the illegal incursion of the Guatemalan military boats in Belize’s waters. And as the Prensa Libre wrote it’s story, the image that they portray is that the military stopped an illegal incursion into Livingston and Sarstoon Island. But a video report reminds us that they want a few districts not just the Sarstoon Island.

Wil Maheia

“The situation is tense. If we continue to show weakness next they tell us we can’t go to Barranco. Or south of Punta Gorda Town or south of the Sibun. The whole part that they are claiming.”

 

The1850′s Convention on the Boundaries of British Honduras has a map that was  defined on thirtieth April, 1859 and surveyed by the commissioners appointed under the convention between the  December fourth, 1860 and April  twenty-first, 1861.  It shows a red line for the boundary that includes Sarstoon Island as a part of Belize. There is a certificate that says “We certify that the boundary lines shown on this map are correct.” It is signed by both British and Guatemala’s boundary commissioners.

 

Recently at a session conducted by the Bar Association of Belize, Attorneys Eamon Courtenay and Assad Shoman presented their views on the issue.

 

 

Eamon Courtenay, Presenter [File: February 19, 2016]

Eamon Courtenay

 “I think we all agree with is that we may need new confidence building measures for the Sarstoon…one specially designed for the Sarstoon. Then after that the question is how do we get to the ICJ if that is what the people in Guatemala and the people in Belize want. My view has been that we need to build confidence on both sides of the borders. We have to become good neighbors. Guatemala has to stop doing the illegal things that it has been doing because many of the people that have been coming across come across with impunity and Guatemala does very little about it. To put it very succinctly we need circumstances that are going to be conducive to both sides to vote yes in the referendum because I think we all agree that we will never have a negotiated settlement.”

 

Assad Shoman

Assad Shoman, Presenter [File:Feb 19, 2016 ]

“The Belizean people have to wake up a little more. They don’t seem to realize that we have an imminent threat. Things are getting worse. The Sarstoon is just the tip of the iceberg of what can happen if we don’t have an international presence. The O.A.S. office is there as a result of the facilitation process. The O.A.S. office will not stay there if they don’t see an end to this thing.”

 

The B.T.V. trip was poorly attended. Other than the media, only two visitors from New York that had property in Punta Gorda attended the excursion. Jose Sanchez Reporting.

 

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1 Response for “BTV’s Expedition to Gracias A Dios Thwarted by Guatemalan Navy!!”

  1. MNHG says:

    THAT IS PART OF WHAT WAS SAID THAT “THE BEST IS YET TO COME”.
    I WOULD THINK THAT SARSTOON HAS BEEN SECRETLY SURRENDERED TO GUATEMALA .
    SOMETHING VERY SCARY IS IN THE AIR, I SEE FAR TOO MANY GUATEMALAN BUSSES AND TAXI DRIVERS IN BELIZE AND NO ONE, NOT ONE BELIZEAN VEHICLE CAN GO INTO GUATEMALA.
    ONE TAXI DRIVER FROM GUATEMALA WAS SEEN REPLACING THE GUATEMALAN LICENSE PLATE WITH A BELIZEAN LICENSE PLATE WHEN ENTERING BELIZE !!!
    WHAT THE “F ” HAPPENING IN MY COUNTRY????????????
    PLEASE BELIZEAN PEOPLE, PLEASE LET US STOP BUYING GUATEMALAN PRODUCTS, LET US STOP USING THEIR TAXIS. LET US DO SOMETHING BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. OUR MONEY IS GOING AWAY FROM US, LET US TRY KEEP IT IN BELIZE.

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